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50. Memorandum of Conversation1



  • Under Secretary Harriman, Assistant Secretary G. Mennen Williams, William Brubeck, White House

1. Libya

Harriman reviewed his trip2 saying that Libya seemed to be most difficult and urgent immediate problem of the countries he had visited—both [Page 81]in terms of the Wheelus base and the future for US oil investment. He thinks both covert and open action programs are needed.

The President said that he is very much concerned about Libya and asked how soon Harriman estimates the Libyans will seriously demand we evacuate the base. He also asked for specifics on US oil investment in Libya. Harriman indicated we ought to be able to protract our tenancy and our negotiation on the base for several years if it is well handled and that the British will be trying to do the same. Beyond the short-range base problem, however, he is concerned with the security of the very large oil investment and plans to talk to Jersey Standard and the other major companies involved.

On the base issue Harriman said the situation is now out of hand and the Ambassador and his staff show little ability to deal with the problem. He thinks it essential that a competent negotiator be appointed to handle the negotiations rather than leave them in the hands of the Embassy. He emphasized also the need to counter the heavy influence of the Cairo “Voice of the Arabs” radio. This is a particularly difficult problem because of the “super Arabism” and anti-Israeli sentiment in Libya. Harriman thinks a propaganda effort is required to create distrust of and opposition to Nasser in Libya. Governor Williams said he had warned Nasser on his visit to Cairo a year ago of the serious view the United States would take of UAR interference to jeopardize US oil investment in Libya.

The President requested Governor Harriman to get Carl Rowan’s personal attention to the propaganda problem.3

[Here follows discussion of the Congo, Zanzibar, and Ghana.]

William H. Brubeck 4
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of McGeorge Bundy, Memoranda of Meetings with the President, Vol. I. Confidential. Drafted by William H. Brubeck of the NSC Staff. The meeting was held at the White House.
  2. On a fact-finding trip to Africa, Harriman met for 3 hours on April 1 with the Ambassador and the Country Team in Libya to discuss the forthcoming Wheelus negotiations. A summary of this meeting was transmitted in airgram A–331, April 9. (Department of State, Central Files, DEF 15–4 LIBYA–US)
  3. That afternoon, Harriman gave a brief report on his trip to Libya at an NSC meeting with Congressional leaders. (Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings, Vol. I, Tab 7, April 3, 1964, Various topics (Panama, etc.))
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.